How to Save Money By Simplifying Your Life

save-money-travel-photo-ccNearly half of households in the United States are “liquid asset poor,” meaning they have less than three month’s worth of savings in the bank, according to a report this year from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit that tracks household financial security. Surprisingly, 25% of those who are considered “liquid asset poor” are in the middle class with earnings of $56,113 to $91,356 annually. What’s even more surprising is that 89% are employed.

Statistics like these might make you wonder how we got here. The fact is, modern life has become more difficult and complicated than ever. We not only have more inconveniences and responsibilities than previous generations, but we also have more bills to pay. We work more, relax less, and spend most of our time planning for the future instead of enjoying the present. Everything costs more than it did generations ago, which is another reason so many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. And when you’re living a hand-to-mouth existence, it can be next to impossible to break the cycle.

Breaking the Cycle in 5 Simple Steps

But what if someone told you it didn’t have to be that way? What would you do if you discovered that merely simplifying your life could help you save and prepare for a brighter future? The truth is, a simpler existence might be exactly what it takes to transition from a lifestyle of struggle into one where you’re able to enjoy life a little. It may not be easy, but change might just be within your reach.

Here’s how:

  • Pare down your possessions. If you’re struggling to keep up and feeling bogged down by life’s ups and downs, it might be time to lighten your load. The truth is, many of the belongings that bring you joy could also be a source of stress either because they require upkeep, take up too much space or come with additional financial costs. So, instead of holding on, figure out what you can sell and take the necessary steps to do so. You’ll not only simplify your life, but you’ll also rake in some extra cash in the process.
  • Cancel unnecessary services. Many monthly bills are non-negotiable, including things such as utilities, insurance, mortgage or rent payments, and transportation costs. But the rest? You can typically do without it. If you really want to simplify and get ahead, consider canceling services that aren’t necessary. This could include things such as cable television, expensive gym memberships (when there are many more affordable monthly plans out there), pricey cell phone contracts, or other unnecessary monthly subscriptions (magazines, movie rental/streaming services, etc.). Eliminating or cutting even a few of your monthly expenses can make a huge difference in your bottom line over the months and years. Plus, who doesn’t want fewer bills to pay?
  • Pay down debt. If you’re like most people, you have a few lingering debts from the past. The bad news is, those monthly debt payments might be part of the reason you’re struggling. They might even mean the difference between mere survival and getting ahead. Unfortunately, the only real way to escape the grasp of your debt is to make a commitment to become debt-free. Use the money you’ve freed up by paring down your possessions and eliminating unnecessary services to work toward becoming debt-free once and for all. It may take a while, but it will be worth it.

Utilize First Financial’s free, anonymous debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

  • Make a commitment to save. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, one surprise bill or emergency is all it takes to knock you completely off track. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to begin saving for the future and for any unexpected expenses that might arise. Saving money might seem like a lofty goal, but it can be done if you make the commitment to never give up. Your future self will thank you.
  • Make it automatic. If you’re worried you’ll fall off the savings wagon in a hurry, the best thing you can do for yourself is make all savings automatic. This generally means setting up an automatic account transfer on payday or at the end or beginning of the month. Making it automatic helps you accomplish your savings goals in two ways: First, it ensures you’re saving on a regular basis by forcing you onto a savings schedule. Second, it forces you to live on less than what you earn, which is required if you truly want to get ahead and stay ahead.

It’s true that modern life has become burdensome and overly complicated in some ways, but it’s also true that our decisions often make it worse. Fortunately, the key to escaping a lifetime of struggle is often within reach if you’re willing to look hard enough. All it takes is a fresh perspective, a willingness to live on less, and the fortitude to make it happen. A simpler and more prosperous life can be yours if you want it.

*Click here to view the article source by Holly Johnson of US News.

Learn How to Talk to Your Kids About Finances at this FREE Seminar in August 2014

teach-kids-howto-save-moneymomdaughtersTeaching kids about money can be done quite simply, following a few guidelines that will be taught to you at this FREE seminar. Parents are hands-down the most influential force in any child’s life, and studies show that this extends to money management. Yet, the money talk still doesn’t happen in many U.S. households. This free seminar will teach attendees about ways to get your children financially educated.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • Financial literacy for every child’s lifestage
  • How to raise money-smart kids
  • Simple steps to get your children excited about saving money

Join us on Thursday, August 7th at 6:00pm for our free consumer seminar titled, How to Talk to Your Kids About Finances, presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our Wall Office located at 1800 Route 34 North, Building 3, Suite 302. We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

5 Budget Killers You Can Avoid

budgeting-money-to-conquer-debtCreating a budget is the first step in taking control of your finances. Sticking to your budget is another challenge altogether.

Even when you believe you have factored in every cost you may encounter by week, by month or by year, somehow you end up needing more money than you allocated – right? If this sounds like you, you are likely encountering a budget killer (or several). Below are some of the most common costs that can cause you to veer off your budgeting course.

1. Account Maintenance Fees: Some big bank accounts and credit cards tack on fees if you don’t maintain your account or meet specific requirements. Some charge you extra if you don’t maintain a certain balance, if you write too many checks, or if you don’t make enough transactions. These can add up quickly. Make sure when choosing an account or credit card, you read the specifics of your account agreement carefully. Look into which checking accounts and credit cards offer services that fit your lifestyle.

Be sure to check out the variety of flexible Checking Account options that we offer here at First Financial including First Protection, High Yield, Free, Go Green Checking and more. Plus, if you’re on the hunt for a great new maintenance-free credit card with rewards, click here to learn more about our low-rate Visa Platinum Credit Card and apply online.

2. Subscriptions: While seemingly low monthly fees can be attractive, subscription magazines and online services (think Netflix, Hulu, etc.) add up. These costs are hurting your budget if you are not using the services or if you could find them elsewhere online for free. Eventually, these just become another add-on to your monthly payments so it’s a good idea every so often to re-evaluate whether yours are worth keeping.

3. Credit Card Interest: Credit cards have several attractive features: allowing you to buy now and pay later, providing cash back, and helping you earn points toward a new car, vacation or night out. Paying installments on your purchases over time may appear to be a great way to buy all your monthly and superfluous purchases. However, high interest rates add up over time if you carry a balance and you can find yourself deep in debt before you know it. You may think you are paying off your purchase when all you are doing is treading water by paying off the interest. To avoid this, it’s important to know the interest rates of your credit cards, pay off your balance in full every month, and save before you purchase. Carrying a lot of debt can have longer-term implications on your credit scores too. If you want to see how your debt is affecting your credit, check out our free and anonymous debt management tool, Debt in Focus and be sure to take advantage of our First Score service to learn ways to improve your score as well.

Did you know that our Visa Platinum Credit Card rate starts as low as 10.9% and offers rewards?* It’s a good idea to check the APR of some of your current credit cards to see if it’s time to switch! Keep in mind, we also don’t have any balance transfer fees – and as an additional BONUS, for a limited time if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

4. Excess Phone, Cable & Utility Bills: Many households are paying hundreds of dollars for TV, Internet, cell phone, and utility expenses each month. No matter how comfortable these tools make us, they are taking up valuable space in our budgets. Look through your bills carefully and try to scale back from services you aren’t using or do not need to use, from running the air-conditioning while you are at work to paying for a DVR on a second TV you never even watch. Also, be sure you are not paying for a level of service you don’t need. If these alterations don’t bring a big enough impact on your budget, consider alternatives like prepaid phone services and switching cable providers.

5. Convenience Fees: Certain businesses tack on “convenience fees” when you utilize their goods or services as a way to make up any added expenses that can incur during your transaction. Be wary of these types of fees before you make various transactions, to see if there is a less expensive way for you to do so.

Having an emergency fund can be a big help when you come in over budget. This money can save you from stress when you have fallen victim to these and other budget killers. It’s a good idea though to deal with the root issue instead of repeatedly ruining your budget and having to dip into your emergency fund. If you do have to use that money, it’s important to replace it and frequently evaluate your budget to match your changing lifestyle.

Article source courtesy of Fox Business.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

What’s Going There? First Financial Plans in Howell

Courtesy of the Asbury Park Press Online

construction0708The recent explosion of commercial growth on Route 9 in Monmouth County continues on an 8½-acre construction site along the northbound side of the roadway just north of the muncipality’s park-and-ride near the boundary with Freehold Township.

First Financial Federal Credit Union, the Wall-based not-for-profit financial cooperative that operates four locations throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties, will spend roughly $1.5 million to build a 3,000-square-foot branch on the site. The company broke ground on the single-story branch late last month and plans to open it in December. The company also plans to spend $4 million to move its headquarters there from Wall by 2016.

Rather than an expansion, however, First Financial’s construction of the branch marks an attempt at consolidation. The company desired a freestanding branch on its own land, and so it allowed its lease of a storefront within Lanes Mill Marketplace on Route 9 North in the township to expire this past April and will do the same with its leased storefront within Barclay Square on Route 9 South in Freehold Township once it opens the new branch.

Similarly, First Financial’s lease on its current headquarters on Route 34 in Wall will expire in 2016, so it will open a new corporate office building that will stand two stories tall and span 20,000 square feet.

*Article written by staff writer Anthony Panissidi of the Asbury Park Press. 

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this July 2014

Family-at-the-beach_summer-funSweet summertime! Time for trips to the beach, BBQs, fireworks, fairs, boardwalk fun, and so much more. Enjoy this time of year with the people you love spending time with – like your family and friends! Check out these free or inexpensive events below that are happening this month in a town near you.

Tuesday, July 1 – Saturday, July 5: It’s the Atlantic Highlands Firemen’s Fair! Bring the whole family to enjoy games, rides, food, and some good ol’ fashioned fun! Fireworks are on Friday, July 4 at 9:45 p.m. Fair starts every night at 6pm and is located at the Atlantic Highlands Marina, 2 Simon Lake Drive. Admission is FREE! For more information, call 732-872-8711.

4th of July Celebrations:

Tuesday, July 8: Head over to the MAC at Monmouth University (West Long Branch) and see AMERICAN IDOL® LIVE! This show gives fans the unique opportunity to be up close and personal with Season 13 Finalists including C.J. Harris, Jena Irene, Caleb Johnson, Jessica Meuse, MK Nobilette, Alex Preston, Dexter Roberts, Majesty Rose, Malaya Watson and Sam Woolf. Tickets start as low as $46 – for more information, call 732-571-3483.

Thursday, July 10 – Sunday, July 13: If you’re looking for some family fun, head over to the Colts Neck Country Fair! There will be live music, food, games, contests, entertainment and of course, a firework display on July 10th. The fair will be held at Bucks Mill Park – for more information, call 732-462-8500.

Saturday, July 12 – Sunday, July 13: Looking to test your pallet while enjoying an amazing view? Check out Bradley Beach’s Annual Lobster Festival! Both days are completely free to enter and will take place from 11am – 9pm on Saturday and 11am – 6pm on Sunday. Enjoy more lobster than ever before including broiled lobster, lobster mac and cheese, lobster rolls, and more. There will also be six bands, live DJ playing requests, over 100 craft and speciality vendors, beer & wine gardens, giant water slide, children’s activities including rides, face painters and sand art. For more information, call 732-897-1111.

Sunday, July 13: The 6th Annual American Girl and Teddy Bear Tea Party is the perfect mommy-daughter date! Children and their favorite adults will gather under tents on the lawn of the Eden Woolley House (Ocean Township). The dolls and their young owners are the main attraction. Children show off the outfits of their favorite dolls (or teddy bears) in a charming fashion show. They make a craft, hear an original story of the Woolley Sisters, and enjoy a tasty tea party. Tickets are just $30 and admit one child (5 years and older) and one adult. Reservations are a must. To make reservations and for more information, call 732-531-6040 or 732-531-2136.

Wednesday, July 23 – Sunday, July 27: There’s another fair in town – the Monmouth County Fair (Freehold)! The fair will have fireworks, 4-H events, animal shows & exhibits, rides, free stage entertainment, racing pigs, home & garden competition, and more. Fairgrounds are located on Kozloski Road – for more information, call (732) 842-4000.

Thursday, July 31 – Sunday, August 3: Bring your family and friends out to this 4-day, action packed event, the 20th Annual Highlands Clam Fest! The festival will be featuring the freshest seafood from local restaurants, spirits, live entertainment, thrill rides, games and more. The event will be held at Huddy Park – for more information, call 732-291-4713.

 Have a wonderful summer!

Learn “Car Buying 101″ at this FREE Seminar in July 2014

buying-carLooking to purchase a new vehicle? You’ve come to the right place – register for our upcoming FREE seminar where you will learn the in’s and out’s of car buying from negotiating price to financing your car. Join Nancy Culp, First Financial’s VP of Lending and Sales, as she teaches ways to prepare for car shopping, how to avoid allowing your emotions get in the transaction, and so much more.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • How to prepare and do your homework for car shopping
  • Ways to handle aggressive sales people
  • How to watch for aftermarket add-ons

Join us on Tuesday, July 15th at 6:00pm for our free consumer seminar titled, Car Buying 101, presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our Neptune branch located at 783 Wayside Road, off Route 66. We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!